My wife and I are planning a self drive 2 week vacation in Ireland late August 2014. Any experiences in buying a car and B AND B packages? You get vouchers and use them around the country. that might limit your choices. Any thoughts on doing this versus just picking out your own each night? Thanks.
I know some folks who have used Sceptre Tours several times, they had a rental car and vouchers to stay in any B&B you want. They provide a list of B&Bs and maps. My friends raved about their trip and the freedom they had.
August is summer holiday time so you might find your last minute choices limited.
My first trip to Ireland, years ago, was a Sceptre package. We booked our B&Bs ahead of time (in the fall for an early April trip). Several things happened: 1. One B&B gave one of our two rooms away because, they said, they had no confirmation from us (though I had a printed copy with me). She booked us into her neighbor's place which was AWFUL. Instead of staying two nights as planned, we moved on the next day. 2. Two nights later, we arrived at our place in Cashel to discover that they, too, had lost our reservation. They were able to accommodate us, but apparently had to turn away another family who had called earlier in the day for rooms. 3. One of our B&Bs had to close because it was the year of the foot and mouth epidemic in the UK, and Ireland, desperate to keep it out, was restricting access to some rural locations and national parks. This B&B was in a remote location, and chose to close - another last-minute scramble. So, booking ahead might help in some cases, but isn't foolproof. And we found out later that owners prefer cash customers over vouchers because they have to wait so long to get paid, but they have your expenses now. Contrary to a prior poster, you cannot stay at any B&B you want. You get a directory of all tourist-board-sanctioned places, but they don't all take vouchers. Even so, there are plenty to choose from.
Regardless of how you book a B&B, call or email them to confirm it. Then, while on the road, call a B&B the day prior to your arrival just to remind them you will be showing up as scheduled. Some places are as smooth and professional as any successful hotel. Some are run out of someone's back pocket.
I have never encountered a B&B that was run "out of someone's back pocket". Irish B&Bs are registered with the tourism board and have to meet certain standards to keep their certification (though obviously there are varying degrees of quality - and I would be surprised if the "bad" place was recertified, it was that bad). In my first example, I did have email confirmation, and calling ahead while en route was when I found out they had given our room away. In the second example (again with email confirmation in hand), the owner explained that the reservation probably got misplaced when they turned over their books at the new year. And as I said, they did accommodate us. The third example was no one's fault. Calling ahead was, once again, when we found out the B&B was closed temporarily.
We have used Scepture tours for three trips for self drive with the B&B voucher. I don't know if they still do this as it was two years ago for last trip but they sent us a very large book which listed the B$b's that took their vouchers, you cannot use the vouchers at just any B&B but we had numerous choices. One owner was a little snippy with taking the voucher because they do have to wait to get paid but she was just snippy in general. Other than that, we had no problems and the price for all three was great.
We did this some years ago. Used Brendan Tours (still around?.)
some thoughts: Pre-book, so that you know you have a room. Get a GPS or printed map so that you can find the House... street names and house numbers are dicey... Limit your travel miles/times per day... Irish roads are a world into themselves, not always well-marked, and not always on the maps... 100 miles can be a long, long, long way... Always need extra time to stop and smell the roses, hear the fiddle player, admire the sun light...
B&B do not have to be registered nor approved by Fáilte Ireland, but only those meeting certain standards are listed on the Discover Ireland website.